34. A conversation with William Stout

by | Nov 1, 2020 | 0 comments

Season 03 Episode 09

A conversation with William Stout

Happy Halloween Keysearchers! On this episode we have a conversation with Byron’s best friend, William Stout.
This episode was recorded almost two years ago! It took a long time for me to get proper permissions from people and do some editing. A good bit of this interview had to be cut out, but hopefully we can revisit these conversations with Bill in the future.

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George Ward
there’s a lot of judgment calls that people ask me to make about, like what? Byron would think about certain things. We think a lot of these are buried like on in, in federally protected parks. And people People wonder would Byron, you know, do that? Would he go into this park and dig a hole and then expect people you know, 40 years later to go and tear up this park? And I don’t I don’t really I don’t really know. Byron, so I don’t I don’t know how to answer that.

William Stout
I’m just trying to imagine Byron digging.

George Ward
Yeah, apparently, apparently on his and Sandy’s first date, they were in San Francisco. And he had to leave the date early. So he could bury one of these. Really? So yeah. So. So there’s, we think this is all sort of speculative. But we think there’s one in San Francisco. There’s one in Houston, Texas, New Orleans, St. Augustine, Florida. Charleston, South Carolina, Roanoke, North Carolina. There was one in Chicago and one in Cleveland. Those have both been found. One in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one somewhere in New York, and one in Montreal. How many have been found 221 was founded in 1984. And one was signed in 2004. Wow. Yeah, yeah. It’s crazy. So my thing was, I like I said, we nobody, there’s a couple of people involved in the hunt that got to talk to Byron that had sort of a friendly relationship with him. But other than that, we don’t know much about the man. And we we spend so much time sort of poring over all of his work, that I thought it might be a good idea to just talk to someone who is a friend of his you know, so we could get more of an idea of, of what Byron was like as a person.

William Stout
Yeah, well, we were pretty close. We both met our future wives, I think the either the same day or the same week. And I was trying to remember where we first met. It had to have been at a comic book convention, but I don’t know if it was at the 1972 EC convention, or if it was at Comic Con, might have been, it seems more likely that it was Comic Con. But you know, very early on.

So So should we call your bill or will Yeah, just call me.

Are we going to upset people if we start early like this? No. Well, so is it live? Or is it your Are you going to edit it?

George Ward
No, it’s not live, we’re going to edit it. And and what I’ll do is I’ll just in case you want I’ll shoot you a copy before it gets published so that you can make sure everything’s okay. Like I don’t want to another thing that John Palin car was sort of irritated with as he’s done interviews in the past, and especially talking about Byron, he gets kind of choked up. And the interviews sort of play into that with drama and make him seem,

William Stout
yeah, I was pretty much a basket case at Barron’s memorial at Comic Con.

George Ward
Yeah, I heard I read something about that. But God, if I could find those recordings of those those that would be amazing to see. Have you talked to Sandy? I have not Sandy has asked. I’ve sent a couple of emails back and forth. But for the most part, I think Sandy and the kids, we sort of show them the respect of, you know, sort of leaving them alone. Yeah. The treasure hunting community gets a little crazy, like I said, with people showing up at John’s house and just calling them out of the blue. 100% don’t want that to happen to Sandy. Right. I mean, Ben, Ben was on the podcast, and then people started, you know, blowing up his email can’t really find his phone numbers. Luckily. And in fact, if that ever happens if people start just shooting new emails about the treasure hunt forwarded me and I’ll take care of it or just tell him you know,

William Stout
I know nothing about it.

George Ward
Alright, so let me do a little intro here. A second. Welcome to the secret podcast. This is George Ward. I’m here with John harpy and we have Bit of a special guest today. Byron price was a bit of a legend. To those of us in the secret community we we pour over his words and we tear through his books trying to get a small glimpse of the man behind the page. What were his motivations? What were his hopes, his dreams, his goals? Why did he think ducks honked instead of geese? I’ve spent many years talking to people who admire Byron, but the last two years, I began talking to people who knew him people from Ben ascender, John Powell and Carr and they’ve all said the same thing. If you want to know who Byron was, talk to William stout. The exact quote I was actually given was, I don’t know a single person closer to or that Byron admired more than Bill. You may not know William stout by name, but you know, his work. Bill’s worked on films like Raiders of the Lost Ark Coenen, predator men and black Pan’s Labyrinth, Masters of the Universe. Bill has a passion for dinosaurs and paleontological art. He published the dinosaurs a fantastic new view of the last era as well as one of my favorite childhood books the little blue Brontosaurus, which received the 1984 children’s Choice Award with Byron. His art has been featured at the Smithsonian, the British Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Bill has camped in Antarctica climbed volcanoes design theme parks, worked with people like Jack Kirby and Robert crumb, and Harvey Kurtzman, Steven Spielberg. And he’s graciously taking the time out of his day to talk to us about his friend Byron. So thank you. Thank you, Bill for being here with us. Oh, you’re

William Stout
welcome. Happy to have you to talk about Baron who’s like a brother to me.

George Ward
So you were saying you, you’re saying earlier you you couldn’t remember if you met Byron at a comic con or an EC Comics Convention?

William Stout
Right? If you see Comics Convention, or what have been in 1972, because that’s when I was working with Kurtzman and elder on the Lani, Fanny. But it seems more likely that it was probably one of the early comic cons in San Diego.

George Ward
Now, did you guys meet through a business thing? Or were you just to, you know, people being represented at the convention?

William Stout
I think Byron saw my work and liked it. And we immediately began to talk about collaborating.

George Ward
What was the what was the first thing you guys collaborated on? I remember. There was a, there was a comic that you did was it was it the it wasn’t the Kurtzman comic? Well,

William Stout
I know one of the early things we did. We’re both gigantic Beach Boys fans. And so I contributed to the illustrated Beach Boys biography. I got a number of different artists each to illustrate a song, including Harvey Kurtzman, and the song I did was 409. And then when Byron came out, one of the times he came out to LA, we both went to a Beach Boys concert because he had that connection. And we were able to get backstage after the show. So that was pretty cool.

George Ward
I heard a story once that you were you’re the first American painter, first American painter that was featured in heavy metal magazine.

William Stout
Yeah, that might be true.

George Ward
I heard that story that you were featured there because Byron gave your work to the magazine in exchange for advertising.

William Stout
Oh, that’s right. Yeah. And I didn’t get any money.

George Ward
What, what did he just advertising in general? Or was he advertising anything specific?

William Stout
It was? Well, the story that we’re talking about was Harlan Ellison story. Byron, and I were very close to Harland and this is for the heartland of the illustrated Harlan Ellison graphic novel book, not really a graphic novel, but a collection of short stories, each history illustrated by a different artist, and it wasn’t really done. So much comic book style is Ec Pictou fiction style for those not familiar with DC picto fiction, that was blocks of text with heavily illustrated by comic book art. And so that was the way the illustrated Harlan Ellison was done. Now, the story I did was a story called shattered like a glass goblin. It was about a guy who was section needed out of the army. This is during the Vietnam War, and he comes back to LA to rejoin the people that he was living with, before he got drafted. And they’re in this old sort of Victorian house in Los Angeles, and the other people are heavily into drugs, and he starts to get into drugs and things start to really change and get weird. So that story, by the way, was responsible for getting me hired. doing artwork for the first Conan the Barbarian movie, Rom Com asked me renkon really wanted me to work on the film with him. But he had a deal with John Miller, who’s the writer director, and that was John had veto power over anybody that Ron wanted to bring into the art department and vice versa. Ron had veto power over anybody that millions wanted to bring into the art department. So Ron asked me if I would leave my portfolio with Millis. And I thought it might be interesting learn how films are made. And so I went to the Conan offices and Millie’s happened to be there. And so I handed my book to him, he flipped through it. And when he got to that story, his eyes lit up, there was a favorite story of his. He remembered reading in heavy metal. And then he handed me back my book, and John’s a sort of bigger than life character. And as he got to the doorway over his shoulder, he barked, hire him. So I went in to see the bus, Bisons, the line producer, he told me what I would be making on Conan and I nearly fell off the chair laughing because it was about 10% of what I was making an advertising at the time. But I thought it might be interesting to see how films were made.

George Ward
So one of the one of the one of the problems that I’ve had, I’ve done quite a bit of research and into you, but one of the problems that went into your bill, but one of the problems that I’ve had is there’s not a lot of information about you and Byron and there’s not a lot of there’s not I guess because it was sort of a lot of that interaction, or at least with publishing business was before the internet it was before. So it’s not really it’s not really Yeah. Could you sort of give me give give us an idea of sort of, how did, how did you embark on and work together? What projects were you? Were you? What projects did you guys work together

William Stout
on? Let’s see, well, I in all my work, I pretty much insist on a lot of freedom. And Byron was willing to give me that one of the things that I really admired about Byron he was constantly pushing the envelope and testing or just trying to do different things with the medium of comics, and illustrated Harland Nelson was one thing. He did some educational autobiographies for kids like he did. You got Harvey Kurtzman to write an autobiography for kids? He did see we did the Ray Bradbury’s dinosaur tales together, I did the cover and I illustrated the sound of thunder. And then he got different artists, including Overton Lloyd and Jim Steranko, to illustrate the other stories and Mobius. And let’s see, he was well, he was always trying to do different things with comics, which I just really admired him for that because some stuff, some stuff would fail, some stuff wouldn’t some stuff would be highly successful. But the fact that he took that chance, that really impressed me.

George Ward
Yeah, he got a lot of flack when he first started doing the graphic novels, because he did it in a completely different format. Right. It was, like you were saying the pictorial novel kind of thing, as opposed to what’s it called the spread of comics that you’re used to now there were no like, there were no speech bubbles, right instance. And his, and that’s something that I’ve heard a lot about Byron. In addition to pushing, pushing the envelope of whatever project he was in, he tended to surround himself with with newer people in those fields, like the sort of the newer, upcoming artists, the people who he knew were going to be great. I think Palin Carr was telling me that he would just take interns that he could see potential in people so he would just take interns and send them off on their own projects.

William Stout
Well, part of that was that in many ways, Byron was similar to my friend, Roger Corman. Roger Corman gave lots of young filmmakers their first break, just the way Byron did in comics. And the reason they both had the same reason. New guys were inexpensive.

George Ward
That is true. Yeah. Yeah. But it’s, it’s weird. It’s weird that it seems like the people that Byron surrounded himself became some of the most more successful people that I that the general public knows about. You know, it’s definitely

William Stout
had an eye for talent. Yeah, yeah. It’s

George Ward
just that circle of people, the the, the National Lampoon heavy metal, the artists that he worked with, they’re all amazing, amazing talents in their own field now, but back then, you know, they weren’t so well known.

William Stout
But on every he out he would get a lot of big name talent as well like, like Jim Sterling and golden Mobius. Yeah, that is true. So I’ll tell you how the dinosaur book came about. We had already done a number of projects together. And Byron was in Los Angeles visiting me and he was at my studio, at a studio on La Brea not far from the tar pits. And I had done a whole bunch of illustrations for a friend’s book. His friend was done. glute Don glute had written a book called The dinosaur dictionary. And there had been someone A new data source found, Don decided it was time to revise the book. And his goal was to have at least one image per listing. And he asked me if I would do four pictures, and that four turned into 44. And while Byron was visiting, he said, Bill, if you could do your own book on anything, what would you do? Now? I thought he was just being conversational. I didn’t realize that was a serious question on his part, I really didn’t have an answer. And he looked, and he saw these dinosaur dictionary pictures laying around my studio. And he said, Oh, would you like to do one on dinosaurs? I? Surely Yes. That’d be fun. forgot about it. Two months later, I got a phone call from barn bill. We got a book deal. Bantam Books, wants to do your dinosaur book, I suddenly had this gigantic project dropped in my lap. And while I was doing the dinosaur dictionary pictures, I thought, you know, this may be the only image of this creature that the puppet ever gets to see. So to better be accurate. So I started working from the skeletons and contacting the paleontologists to actually discover the animals. And this is before email. So I had to snail mail my sketches back and forth until we were both happy. And I also began studying paleo botany because the plants had to be accurate as well. Well, while I was doing the dinosaur book, I mean, the main impetus for doing that book was not just to do a dinosaur book, but because I was privy to all kinds of knowledge in the field of paleontology that wasn’t getting to the public yet. It was just sort of slowly but surely trickling down. I was part of a loose group called the dinosaur Society of Los Angeles. And if there was a visiting paleontologist in town, that person would end up as our guest speaker. So through all these incredible guest speakers, I was finding out that dinosaurs weren’t slow, they weren’t stupid, they were fast, they took care of their young, a lot of them had feathers. And I thought, this book would be ideal for putting all of this new information about dinosaurs together in one package for the public. And so after we got our book deal, I started to do the illustrations. And as I was doing them, I was concerned that if I did them on all the same style, that the public would be bored, and perhaps I would be bored in the process. So I started imagining what would it look like if Andrew Wyeth did a dinosaur painting? And so I would do one in the style of Andy Wyatt. What would it look like a Vinci Wyeth did a dinosaur painting? What would it look like if Mobius did dinosaurs? And so I was experimenting with all these different styles. At that time, I had a reputation of Los Angeles as the guy who could duplicate any style. And that was some of the work that I got. My very first movie poster was a film called spies. The original poster was done by Rick Myra was the National Lampoon cartoonist, and it starred Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland and an actress named Zuzu. Well, he had blown the caricatures of Elliott golden Zuzu. And he refused to change them. So they sent the poster back to Los Angeles, they called me up and they said, We need you to redraw Elliott Gould in Zuzu. But in Rick style, and but make it look like them. And so I did. That was my very first movie poster.

George Ward
So something that I love about dinosaurs. The dinosaurs book that you did with Byron, when I remember dinosaur books from when I was a kid, they were they were emotionless, you know, you saw like, the illustrators would illustrate a Tyrannosaurus Rex from the side, right? This great portraits? Yeah. And these illustrations were really sort of, I think they were the first glimpse kids had into the life of dinosaurs, how dinosaurs interacted with each other, how they interacted as a family. And that’s something that I kind of admire about your work, especially in this book. Was that important to you?

William Stout
When you were really important to me, I did not want to do a catalog of dinosaur portraits. I thought that would be incredibly dull, and wouldn’t honor the dinosaurs. There’s been so much new information being found out about them. I was really intrigued by their lifestyle and speculating on, on how they lived, how they made it, what kind of stuff they ate, even how they pooped.

George Ward
It’s funny, but that’s important information to know. And it’s it’s important to be able to put that sort of the their lives into a context.

William Stout
Oh, yeah, I agree. So originally, I think the goal from that was set by Banham was to I think there was about 30 color illustrations and 20, black and white, and I started to trick them. I would do the black and white illustrations in full color. And they’d get them they go, Whoa, we can’t print this in black and white. It’s gorgeous. I said, Well, okay, so by doing that over and over and over, I got the numbers up to about 80 color plates and about 50 Black and white illustrations. So that was my wildly little plan that succeeded. And as the pictures were coming in, Banham kept upping the first printing numbers. I think originally, the first printing was going to be 2000 copies. And by the time it went to publication, it was a quarter of a million. They really had they really believed in that book. Thank God. And

George Ward
not so much in the secret. I think they went to 25,000. Wow. Yeah, that book was nothing. It kind of this kind of leads me into the into the second book, though, you guys also did little blue Brontosaurus. Now, this, this book has a bit of a story of how this book came about as kind of a sad ending with what happened to the property. But how did how did? How did this book come about? I know, I know, there’s really only one or two interviews that we have of Byron, but but from those interviews, it’s very obvious that that his passion was children and getting children to read via through comic books through electronic through ebooks, or through just children’s books. So was it just his passion of children plus your passion of dinosaurs that brought this book together? Or was there a plan?

William Stout
Well, that’s a set of barons that I really loved. In many respects, he was extremely charitable guy. And he was passionate about getting kids to read. Also, with every book that we did, he would also issue a Braille addition so that there’d be an addition for the blind as well. And I thought that was a wonderful thing, wonderful policy that he had. So we co wrote the little blue Brontosaurus and then I did the layouts and painted the cover and design the characters, and did a few of the interior pieces. But the bulk of the story art was done by Don Morgan over my layouts done at the time was ghosting Pogo, the walk Kelly strip. So he was for style wise is ideal. Because I wanted that really sort of Disney ask Walt Kelley esque style for the book. Unfortunately, the book was published by cabinet now that was cabinets, very first book prior to that. Basically, they were spoken record company. So there is a record to that you can get a little Brontosaurus. And but because it was their first book, they sort of dropped the ball when it came to distribution and a number of things. Here’s a book that won the children’s Choice Award for 1984. And I couldn’t find it in any bookstores. Oh, yeah. It’s very difficult to special order as well. So incredibly frustrating.

George Ward
Yeah, I’m lucky. I’ve got I’ve got a copy of this son by Byron, but I also have my copy from when I was a kid. I mean, not not to just you know, not just because you’re on the podcast. This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. So thank you, thank you for like, the illustrations are amazing. The the illustration that I love more than any there’s a black and white of blue, hiding beside the Stegosaurus. And when I was a kid, it was just it was my favorite

William Stout
school. Well, yeah, you might be happy to know I wrote a sequel. I kept pushing Byron to write a sequel, or, or at least begin the second book. And I think he was just so busy with so many projects, I finally got tired of waiting. And I just wrote the sequel myself, who called it was called little blues big race. And I also did a full color cover for it.

George Ward
Is it out or

William Stout
no, it never came out. I’m hoping to put it out eventually. Because I still am a big believer in that project.

George Ward
I mean, it was, it was a beloved, it was a beloved book to so many people. Are the people that could the people that could get it is right now. I mean, I don’t know if you’ve looked but if you go on Amazon or eBay, it’s nuts.

William Stout
Wow. Yeah. I’ve seen it for 200. Wow. Okay. The guy who’s got the most of them he and he scours the country for them when he travels is stewarding of stewarding books. He’s usually got about three to six copies in his shop.

George Ward
So this, this book ended badly. It was I don’t know if you can say this. So I’ll say it. But basically the concept and the art was kind of taken from you and used to make Land Before Time.

William Stout
That’s correct. And to put salt in the wounds. Lucas and Spielberg had hired me to do some of the advertising for the land before.

George Ward
Oh, that’s horrible. I hear

William Stout
love irony except when it happens to me. Yeah,

George Ward
I hear that Byron wanted to sue George Lucas and Steven Spielberg over this. Can you can you talk about that at

William Stout
all? Yeah, yeah, he did. Now I don’t think Lucas was aware of my book. I think it was all Steven because when I started in the film was with Conan our receptionist was Kathleen Kennedy. And Steven Spielberg’s office was right across from my office. So Ron Cobb, and I would work on Conan during the day, and then just jump across the hall to Stephens office and kick around ideas for his next film project, which was Raiders of Lost Ark. And within two months, and by being there, Kathy became John Millis, his personal assistant and about two months after that to Steven Spielberg’s personal assistant, and within two years, she produced at kind of a step up so incredibly fast wife, but a producer friend of mine was visiting Kathy at her office, and he saw the little blue Brontosaurus on her desk. So there’s no doubt that they were aware of my book. And but the problem was, I was working in the film business. Well, to sue Spielberg would be career suicide.

George Ward
Yeah, that’s a Death Note.

William Stout
I know. I knew we would win, because it was clearly stolen from us. But you know, it was just one of those days.

George Ward
Yeah, you would lose in the long term. Definitely.

William Stout
Yep. And since then, I’ve done a lot of work for Spielberg so that that never would have happened if I had sued him.

George Ward
And I’m sure that topic never comes up in conversation. No. So I’ve got to ask, what was it you did the storyboards for Raiders of the Lost Ark? Right?

William Stout
I did some of them. I just did a handful to help Steven out. I was working on the sequence where with where India is fighting the Nazis on the truck. Oh, and it became pretty clear to me. I really needed to just focus on Conan I couldn’t do both films at once. And so I recommended a really good friend of mine to take over for me that was Dave Stevens, the creator of the rocketeer. So Dave ended up doing the storyboards for Raiders Lost Ark. And then I gave up a couple of years later, I give Dave another great job. John Landis called me up, he wanted me to storyboard Michael Jackson’s Thriller. And I was just way up to my ears and work. There’s no way I could squeeze that in. So again, I recommended Dave and Dave storyboard a thriller for John Landis. And then Michael Jackson really fell in love with Dave’s art. And so Michael started to hire Dave for a lot of other projects as well.

George Ward
So you’re just completely out of left field here. Your your relationship with Byron, you guys were very close. You’ve described yourself as

William Stout
brothers were really close. It was a really rocky relationship. I gotta tell you.

George Ward
I’ve heard that from a lot of people who work with Byron on the business side, it gets a little rocky, but it seems like he knew how to keep his professional life separate from his business life.

William Stout
Yeah, oh, yeah. The personally, we were best of friends. But business wise, I would have huge blow up fights with the guy. Because I mean, typically, here’s the way he, you know, burn, didn’t want to pay hardly anything to any of the artists. That’s that’s no secret. He was very tight with the dollar. But the way he would get people to work for him, he would offer you a dream project that you would go Oh, my God, I would, I would almost do that for free. Well, if you’re working for Byron, you almost didn’t do it for free. But, you know, that was it was always this incredible enticement. I remember, you know, both Byron and I are huge fans of Mobius. And I was really pleased and surprised to learn that Byron was doing an art of Mobius book. And he sent me a copy of the limited edition after it was published. And I went through it, I immediately saw that entire signature, I think was 16 pages were missing from the book. You know, they were in the softcover edition, the regular edition, but not in the hardcover limited edition. I called them up. And I said, Byron, you just gave new meaning to the word limited. And Byron said, I know he said, I just think God, it wasn’t one of your books. I would have turned him a new one. But Mobius was a much kinder gentler person than I am.

George Ward
So So yeah, I’ve heard this about but like, this is your right. It’s not a secret that Byron was a little bit stingy when it came to money. And it’s also not a secret that he gave people their dream, their dream jobs.

William Stout
What, what and that dinosaur book that really launched me in the world of paleontology? You know, I’ll be forever grateful for that. It really put me on the map as one of the leading paleo artists. And while I was in the middle of doing the book, of course, the deadline was looming. And eventually, I didn’t have time to ape other people’s styles. And so I just started producing, producing, producing and out of That became my own style. Because previous to that dinosaur book, I really didn’t have my own style. I would just, I would just adapt if they choose the style that I thought was best solve the problem that was presented to me, but so I was really happy to see that my own style emerged out of that intense amount of work.

George Ward
Yeah, if you were to show me the dinosaur book, and then show me the cover of carbon 13 and say, This is the same artists, I would, I would call you a liar. Yeah, it’s just two completely different,

William Stout
right? And even coming 13 When I was doing the black and white interiors, I was working in different styles. I did one that was like a bread Holland style picture. And, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s actually the I was the first to illustrate a Harlan Ellison story called Rock God. And I, I don’t know if I had just worked with Jack Kirby or just was really into Jack’s work. But I did a sort of a Kirby esque illustration for that.

George Ward
What are do you have a favorite? A favorite story of Byron, personally, I know. You guys got together quite a bit. I read that, like every after every ComiCon he would buy you dinner. And so you do you have a favorite story of a time you guys were together?

William Stout
Boy, well, it’s not a very interesting story. But I think it was the last time or at least one of the last times that we’re together. They always Baron and Sandy all stayed at the Oh, gosh. The hotel with the Polo lounge was at the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Bel Air. Anyway, it was, you know, a very luxurious hotel. And our one of our last conversations was he he noticed that I had started publishing. And so he just barrage me with all this incredible publishing advice that he garnered over the years. And that was, I was amazed. And he was treating me in a different way. You know, our sort of brother relationship, sometimes I was the big brother, sometimes he was the little brother. And sometimes it was vice versa. We are constantly in touch with each other and giving each other advice and, you know, alerting each other to things that we thought the other guy would like. When we were also, you know, we got married around the same time, our wives knew each other and liked each other and, and then we both started having kids. And so I remember for one of his daughters, I don’t think it was a birthday thing was her bat mitzvah. I gave her an original dinosaur illustration.

George Ward
Speaking of that was Byron was Byron was very religious. Yeah, from what we’re told. He went to synagogue how he was

William Stout
sort of a, what I would call a classic good Jew, and that he seemed to take on the the worries and the troubles of the world. I mean, I’d be with him in Manhattan, we pass a newsstand and he read the headline of some disaster and he would take it very personally, even though he didn’t know anybody involved. He just had a very big empathetic heart. Right? And you know, his, his father was involved in getting sequined Schuster paid. In regards to Superman,

George Ward
it just it blows my mind this, this little book, and I know you don’t really know much about it. But all of the stories that we hear about the book, The secret that he published, it seems less like a like a, like a job. For Byron, it seemed like he wanted to do a cool project with a bunch of friends. So he literally got a bunch of his friends together to do this, this project. And like I was saying before, that circle of friends and the things that that Byron was involved in, like, like the Superman lawsuit that is that his father helped with it’s just crazy. How much Byron indirectly impacted so much of what the public now loves, you know, without without Byron, there’s no, there’s no Eragon books, you know, without without. Without Byron there’s no little group blue Brontosaurus without Byron. Byron had his hand and so many things.

William Stout
Without Byron I wouldn’t have a career as a paleo artist.

George Ward
Exactly. And, you know, that’s just I mean, so many people. Oh, it seems so many people owe so much to Byron.

William Stout
He still owes me though. Okay, I got paid before. He never paid me for my aunt’s book illustrations.

George Ward
Yeah, I heard you guys did the graphic novels.

William Stout
Well, actually, they were graphic novels. They were are brand new oz novels. They’re pros. And they’re written by Sherwood Smith. And they were officially sanctioned by the bound family. Oh, wow. Yeah. So yeah, one of our dinners in Beverly Hills was with the surviving bound family members. And so the first book we did was going to be called Flying Monkeys of Oz. And then it was discovered that Michael Myers was, had a regular routine on Saturday, and that library talked about monkeys flying out of his ass. So we couldn’t use that title. So they changed it to a title that I thought was even more salacious, which was the Emerald wand Avaaz, which we began to refer to as the Emerald sponsor of ours. And it was it was a strange situation because Byron sent me the manuscript I read. I’m a huge eyes fan, I’ve every single oz first edition in my collection. And I read the novel and it was just awful. It was it was written by someone who had no idea of what Oz was, had no idea of what the charm of Oz was, or how Anons book should be written. And I was just furious. And I wrote a blistering I think it was probably about a 12 page letter, detailing every atrocity in that novel. And a few months later, he sent me another one. He said, You know, I had a rewritten and I couldn’t believe it was like Dan night, it was absolutely brilliant. And it was, it was so dead on and spot on is an awesome book. I couldn’t believe it was by the same person. And I found out later, it wasn’t by the same person. I don’t know who he got to write that first one. But it wasn’t sure what Smith because I ran into Shawn Smith, we were both guests at the San Diego Comic fest. And that’s when I found out that she had written the book that I ended up illustrating, they’re more wanting to boss it. And she also wrote the second book, which troubled under us. And so those were for Harper Collins, Harper Collins paid me they didn’t pay me directly, though, they paid the money to Byron Byron was supposed to pay me. He didn’t pay me use that money to do something else. And so I never got paid on those books. And in the third book, I was going to do as a tribute to Byron. And I was really going to knock myself out and do my absolute best, most elaborate oz pictures. But since I didn’t get paid on the second book, I didn’t you know, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. And then obviously, HarperCollins in their minds, well, they had paid me so they weren’t going to pay me again. So the third book just sort of dissolved into the vapors.

George Ward
Well, we’re at Byron, you obviously share a lot of loves Byron seem to be passionate about music. Did you share the same sort of passions?

William Stout
No, I’m, I’m nuts about music. I wrote a book called legends, the blues. It’s 100 portraits of my favorite blues musicians born prior to 1930. And then I wrote all the biographies inside the book. Byron and I, as I said, Barna and I were both gigantic Beach Boys fans.

George Ward
Yeah, I actually actually own that book and the Chromebook before it. So yeah,

William Stout
I did all the guys that Robert didn’t draw. And before I did the book, I got Robert blessing on the book, because I told him, I said, if you consider this your turf, I’ll drop it like a hot potato. But he got back to me and said, I can’t wait to see what you do.

George Ward
I would I would love to just know what it’s like to be able to just call Robert Chrome and be like, hey,

William Stout
well watch the chrome documentary. That’s a really good portrait of Robert.

George Ward
Oh, yeah, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. It’s great. Do you know Do you know anything about Byron’s taste in music? Do you know what he likes? What he didn’t lose

William Stout
and beach boy. Oh, he turned me on to the revenues. Like I know the ribbon I think I think their East Coast band. They’re very powerpop Oh, and when he would come to LA I take him to shows I took him to see on Guangdong man I took him to see my old band the heaters. And he was knocked out by the hitter. See what you didn’t like playing a Blanco? I think it was a little too harsh for him. But he loved our Poppy love stuff with good melodies. Do you know Sonny turned me on to is I want to be your boyfriend.

George Ward
Someday that we sort of struggle with because we didn’t know him we don’t know is we don’t know his motivations. We don’t know the things that inspired him. Do you know if Byron had any Any specific inspirations What what are you know what artists he was inspired by what authors?

William Stout
Well, I know he loved comics. And as far as authors go, he was crazy about Harlan Ellison and crazy about Ray Bradbury. It was Byron who directly introduced me to Ray Bradbury, which I’ll also be forever grateful for because Ray and I became really good close friends. And so those were two writers he admired enormously. And then he liked a lot of the better comic book artists as well. And then I turned him on to a lot of the early children’s book illustrators, the 20th century, people like Arthur Rackham, had medulla Detmold. Brothers. Often I would come to New York to the big antiquarian Book Fair and go with Baron and I buy loads of these fantastic illustrated books. And then he would do the same, we’d go together when it was in LA. And just add to our collection.

George Ward
I guess tying back into the the book we’re interested about, do you know if Byron was inspired by puzzles in any way? Do you know if he was I guess we’re, what I’m trying to figure out. And what we’re all trying to figure out is this. This book that he wrote, The secret is, so it’s so strange, it’s, it’s, it’s different. And no one really knows what inspired him to do it. And it’s such a huge project to take on. And sort of add a left field like, let’s just make a big puzzle. Generally, people who are really into those sorts of things are the people who take on this project. So it’s always been a big question of what inspired Byron? How would he even come up with this idea what you know what inspired him to make it?

William Stout
I would guess that it’s probably slightly related to another project we did together. Byron did a whole series of books called The Time Machine books, which are very similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I illustrated covers two, I think about six of them. And they give you the opportunity to read a book, you know, two dozen different ways depending upon which path you decided to take when you’re given a choice. Right. So to me that, that tells me that he had a sort of a fun gaming puzzle sensibility that was at least partially indicated by that series of books.

George Ward
Yeah, I think I think John Palancar illustrated a couple of those something, there was something about images that you could move around, and one image would make multiple different images that he was telling me about once, but I’ve never been able to physically hold those books. I’ve never, I’ve never seen them before. They sound very interesting.

William Stout
And who the I mean, one of the pillar artists I admire the most is a guy I turned Byron on to Doug Henderson. And Doug illustrated two different dinosaur books that I did the covers for, or the prehistoric life books that I did the cover for. And I think he had, since dug style didn’t lend itself to reproduction on cheap pulp paper, like, like a paper book would have. He got Alex Nino to ink Doug’s drawings. And so that was a great combo, because Alex have is a fantastic line man. And Doug Henderson is one of the most cinematic of the dinosaur artists.

George Ward
Do you so I read in one of your in one of your blog posts that that you went, you’d like you said, you met, you both met your wives at about the same time, you had to both approve of each other’s wives. You went through all of the his children’s lives, you both experienced sort of life together. Is there a specific moment in Byron’s life that sort of that that’s touching to you or

William Stout
I loved that. When we’re outside of business, he was an incredibly generous guy. You know, he used to be the guy that took me out to dinner. And, and then when I would be in New York, he would. He has members in the Friars Club so we would work out together and sometimes have dinner at the Friars Club together. And when he was here, I tried to do the same for him. But usually he would end up taking me out. Harlan needless to say, the publishers always have to pay.

George Ward
I guess let me let me see if I can rephrase is it’s obvious that Byron loved his friends. It seems like he was also a family man. What was what was Byron like as a? How did you see Byron as a father?

William Stout
Well, he was very kind and thoughtful when it came to his daughters. He just taught the world of his daughters and No Sandy to Sandy was very strong person. She was a, she’s a publicist really top, go get her publicist, she did some of the publicity for the dinosaur book. So did her boss and and I just thought the girls were just fantastic. They they really tickled me and I love being around them and watching them grow up. I would love to see them now because I haven’t seen them in so many years. They’re not girls anymore. They’re young women.

George Ward
Yeah, I hear they’re pretty accomplished. Like I said, we tend to leave it will surprise me that they’re actually there on the episode of Expedition unknown this about the secret. I don’t know if you’ve seen it. But if you’re interested, I have a link. I can send it to you. You can watch it. It’s got Sandy and both the girls on it.

William Stout
Oh, wow. Oh, yeah. I’d love to see that. Yeah, I’ll

George Ward
email you a link to it.

William Stout
Sure. Sandy used to tease Byron. When I found the Atkins diet, I lost about 30 pounds. She she started to use environment that he should follow my path.

George Ward
I mean, he was a kind of a tiny guy, wasn’t he? I mean, he was. I hear he was tall, but kind of thin. Or no. Yeah. But

William Stout
over the years, I started getting DadBod.

George Ward
That’s one of the I guess one of the downsides of being a publisher is you’re you’re behind the curtains. You’re like the wizard from the oz.

William Stout
We don’t use excessive publisher you can afford to go out to eat.

George Ward
Yeah, we don’t we don’t have any. We don’t have any pictures of Byron, like we’ve got I think there’s maybe three public pictures of Byron. Oh, he’s a handsome guy. Yeah, we’ve got those.

William Stout
I would say cross between Matthew Broderick and Pacino. Yeah, those are really different days back then to the publishing industry is like the film business and the music industry is turned upside down. Back then, when you finish the book, your job was done. And in the book company took over it did heavy promotions, they would fly for the dinosaur book, for example. I hit every day paid for me to go to every bookstore from here to Seattle, and and do signings and stuff. And that’s all changed now. Now you finish the book, your half your job is done. Now you as the author have to go out and promote it on your own.

George Ward
Was that was that something that Byron did a lot that he traveled around? Promoting? I

William Stout
traveled with me to a lot of my social engagements and Sandy and her boss arranged for me to go on a lot of television shows a lot of the morning TV shows. And it was it was pretty fun. Pretty exciting.

George Ward
Yeah, I remember John Powell and car was telling me he that Byron did a interview in Cleveland about the dinosaur book on on some TV show, like a morning news segment kind of thing. Yeah.

William Stout
Boy, the major coup, that major coup that he pulled off was getting those top four killer pages and Life magazine on the book. Holy cow. That was that was like, lightning striking. That was amazing. Well, he wasn’t just a publisher. He was a really good writer, too. He wrote a lot of the stuff. Well, he wrote that strip for the Lampoon that Ralph Reese illustrated.

George Ward
Yeah, he did. He did the anti advice column and some comic books. I forget the name of it. Yeah, he’s he’s done several books. He had, like a, not the Webster’s Dictionary, which was absolutely hilarious.

William Stout
And, and we cover up a little blue together. Yep.

George Ward
But it that but that doesn’t. Those kinds of books. It’s odd. Except for not, not the Webster’s Dictionary. There’s a there in that book. There’s an epilogue that’s a very long story about sort of some things Biron loved as a child, just a story about New York and story about Gershwin and all of these different things. But aside from that, and Dragon World, there’s there’s not a whole lot that allows you to take a glimpse at at Byron the man, you know, there’s Byron, the the author, the storyteller, but but there’s not a lot that allows you to take a glimpse inside of inside of his life.

William Stout
Right, even though he did do a lot of publicity, but the publicity was never self serving on his part. It was always in promotion of someone else. One of his books or someone else, like, well, like you were just saying, I did a lot of the interviews for the dinosaur book on the west coast, but he did a lot on the East Coast. And yeah, he made a lot of television appearances. And, but it wasn’t about him at all. It’s always about the book.

George Ward
I guess one thing since you said that aside from as an aside from the podcast, we are constantly looking for media of Byron, do you remember any interviews he gave that we could look up?

William Stout
Oh, not specifically, but most of the interviews that the tubist did were for local morning TV shows.

George Ward
Yeah. And we’ve tracked a some of those down and they’re all owned by like NBC and CBS, and they all charge like $50 a second for the footage. It’s, oh my gosh, you know, in the film and movie business, it’s crazy.

William Stout
Yeah, I hate that the gouges like that, because it’s, you know, in many ways, this is a public benefit that you’re performing here. You’re not towing in the big bucks. No, putting on the show?

George Ward
Definitely not. It. Yeah, it is. It’s crazy. If you go to them, and you say this is for a nonprofit thing, even when we went and said this is for a charitable thing. No, they didn’t budge $50 a second. No transcripts, no, nothing. It’s nuts.

William Stout
It’s funny when I did the blues portraits, originally, I wanted to do them as trading cards. And I contacted Dennis kitchen, who was my old friend, but also Robert crumbs agent. And he said, Bill, do you notice anything unusual about Roberts choices? I said, Yeah, he did. They’re really ancient guys like sun house. said, Yep. Public Domain? Yeah. He said, You’re gonna have to track down each of these musicians or their families or their estates and get their permission and probably have to pay them. Because trading cards are considered commercial exploitation. So I thought I said, Well, I guess I just did it for myself. He said, Would you consider doing them as a book? And I said, Well, wouldn’t I run into the same problem? He said, No, a book is considered a benefit to the public. It’s not considered exploitation, like T shirts or posters or prints.

George Ward
Yeah, I think you were you were saying that in another interview, where you were going to put together a collection of your works. I think it was on a Masters of the Universe podcasts where you couldn’t publish just Masters of the Universe posters. But you were gonna get them all in a book, because that was you were able to do that.

William Stout
Yeah. Yeah, different rules. Oops, thank God.

George Ward
So Byron met. Byron met a couple of the hunters, a couple of people who will the two groups that found treasures from the secret one was in Chicago, one was in Cleveland. Byron met with both of them. And there’s a couple of weird things. Did Byron’s mother was Byron’s mother, his secretary. Do you know, I know. That’s an odd question

William Stout
might have been. Yeah, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. I think.

George Ward
Byron’s mom yelled at one of them once. And they were always curious, actually patterns, mom. But the second, the second group that met him in 2004, said that he was just he was overjoyed, that that his book had sort of carried on this legacy. And now this book, this book was published 40 years ago. Wow. How do you think and it’s got a cult following our Facebook groups, 1000s of members, the podcast gets, oh, God, hundreds of listens, per episode per day. It’s the crazy amount of fans of this book. How do you think Byron would feel about that, knowing that this little what seems to be a pet project, because it’s something he never did? Again, he never sort of dipped his feet into the treasure hunting world again. How do you think he would feel that this little pet project has gained such a following 40 years later?

William Stout
I think he’d be totally elated. And, you know, he loved all the projects that he did, whether they were successful or not. Because I think he’d he enjoyed the process of creation, he enjoyed the process of working with the writers and the artists. And so each, each project he did had a personal meaning for him. And so I know with the dinosaur book, we were we were amazed by the reception that book got, and I think you would have been amazed by the reception of the book that you’re talking about as well. I think it’d be really happy really pleased.

George Ward
Yeah, it’s just, it’s insane to me that this little book that like I said, didn’t even sell 25,000 copies. It did not make its money back has such a following. Now, you can’t you can’t buy this book on. You can’t buy it online anymore. Because it’s it’s not that this little thing that a group of people did just a group of friends did has as developed the sort of legacy and ises are still out there. Yeah, they’re well, at least 10

William Stout
years. That’s That’s really amazing.

George Ward
Well, we hope a lot To things have changed, a lot of parks have changed, there’s a lot of maintenance. I think that’s, that’s the, one of the big problems within the community that they don’t necessarily understand about Byron is where so most of these seem to be practically solved. It’s just, I don’t know, if you’ve ever when even if you were, if someone were to throw a key in your backyard and tell you exactly where it is in your backyard and tell you to go, you know, dig the key up or whatever, digging that hole, if you’re a millimeter off, when you’re digging the hole, you’re practically a mile away, you’ll never find it. So most of these are practically solved, they seem to be but they haven’t been found. And a lot of what people have problems with is, the parks that they’re in are now federally protected, or monuments that that are in the puzzles have been removed. And people wonder if Byron would have had the forethought? You know, would he have thought 40 years later? You know, maybe these things aren’t, maybe these clues aren’t going to be around anymore? And and if I if I could find out one thing about Byron it would be it would be that did he put that much thought into his projects? Did he think about how the projects would would live over time? Or how they would evolve any of his projects? Or was he more of let’s do this passion project and put it out? And how the audience receives it is how the audience receives it.

William Stout
Well, the audience’s is always the missing factor in in any creative project is really not complete until it goes out there. And then the is the audience who decides whether it’s a hit or miss, whether it’s going to live for a long time or not? And, you know, that varies with the size of the audiences for each project as well. But I think he took each project that he did very, very seriously.

George Ward
I guess it’s just, it’s one of those things that we’ll never know, like, you can’t go back in time and climb into someone’s mind and ask their motivations or, you know, their plan.

William Stout
You can’t even go back in time yesterday and have a different lunch.

George Ward
I don’t, I don’t know that I have any more specific questions for you. I really just wanted to my whole goal was to just like I said before, I’m asked to make a lot of judgment calls on the kind of person that Byron was and how he how he thought, and I, I can’t because I didn’t know, I didn’t know Byron. So I just really wanted to speak to someone that knew him well, to sort of find out the kind of person that he was. When, you know, when the cameras were off, and you know, when he wasn’t in a suit

William Stout
wasn’t in a suit. I don’t know if I ever saw Baron when he wasn’t in a suit.

George Ward
Yeah, I’m told he wore a suit to bed.

William Stout
And he were really nice ones too. In fact, when when I was doing the TV shows to promote the dinosaurs. He would take my coat off and hand me his. So I look better on camera.

George Ward
That was stories like that, to me are priceless. Because it it’s, it’s taken it, you know, it’s, it shows what Byron was like as just a person, you know, he was this this hunt is weird, in that people study this specific book, and then they because you have to, because the book is so vague, you kind of have to learn about the person that made it and what their what they were like, what they what inspired them. Like I said in the intro, why he thought ducks humped you have to learn those things. So those kinds of any when you do that, you tend to elevate the person may be higher than you should you put them on a slightly higher pedestal than you should. And it’s nice to be reminded that Byron was just a guy who, you know, who screwed up sometimes and had fun with his family and had fun with his friends. It’s nice to be reminded of that.

William Stout
Yeah. Yeah, when whenever I did a project with Byron, I was always wary and always waiting for the little bit of grit that was gonna be you know, caught within the wheels of the project. There was always some irritant. And that was that was really a constant. He was funny that way.

George Ward
I said earlier that too, in the intro that people might not know your name and that was for a reason, I didn’t really know your name

William Stout
was the hardest guy in the world to collect? Because I tell I tell young artists, if you want to be famous, do the same thing over and over and over again for years.

George Ward
Oh, no, you’re the you’re the absolute easiest person to collect, at least for me. Because while I didn’t know your name, the more I researched, the more I realized I own so much stuff that you’ve done. My parents were not at not absent by any means. But they were very busy. And I was the, they were the kind of person who were like, you know, sit down in front of the TV, or, you know, here’s a book or here’s a comic. And the more I researched about you, the more I realized how much of your work shaped my childhood and shaped who I am as a person. And I am I am deeply grateful for some just, you know, the work you’ve done from, from the little bit that you’ve done on Raiders of the Lost Ark to Masters of the Universe. You design my favorite Skeletor

William Stout
Oh, cool. Thank you, you know that. Amazingly, that is Franklin Jones favorite role of everything he’s done, really. I had,

George Ward
I had to watch that movie again today. Like, I got so excited about this interview and everybody getting together. So I watched Masters of the Universe again.

William Stout
And he’s fantastic in that dome. But I was thinking like,

George Ward
the little blue Brontosaurus really was my favorite book. And I really do have all of these things. Like every time I read more about the things that you’ve done, it reminded me of something from my childhood, and it won’t it it helped shape who I am. So thank you personally for that.

William Stout
Oh, you’re welcome. I love hearing that. You know, as artists, we work alone in a room doing what we do. And until we have interaction with the public or the fans or go to conventions and stuff we really never know if the first step is touching anybody or reaching them at all. So I love getting feedback like that. I am very thankful

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George Ward
William Stout

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